Aspland House, Norwich: Thomas Henry Case

By chance, my other grandfather (Thomas Henry Case) also lived briefly in Heigham: the 1891 census shows him at2 Trinity Street. Of course this was before either of my parents were born – and indeed the Case family had moved to the other side ofNorwich before the Longleys arrived. It was one of the few houses on my list that still stood, although like so many larger Victorian houses it is now used as doctors’ consulting rooms.

My father was born at 1 Aspland Road, in Thorpe village: exactly the other side of Norwich, and also just outside the old city walls, but more importantly, just east of the river Wensum. Driving round the inner ring road, I became lost at a point where the route turns left and right seemingly at random: but then I found myself crossing the river, and decided I must be close. Sure enough the very next street on the right was Aspland Road. I turned in and parked in defiance of Norwich’s draconian parking regulations, for long enough to take some photos.

Aspland Road from across the Wensum, 2009

Aspland Road from across the Wensum, 2009

The house the Cases lived in from about the turn of the century until after my grandfather’s death in 1915 (my grandmother moved toLondon in 1924, and I know she lived until 1937 and finished up in Watford with my father) is no longer there. Aspland Road itself was first developed sometime between 1891 and 1900, in the grounds of the now demolished Aspland House. The original terrace houses still stand on the south side of the road (number 6 is a private hotel called Aspland House), but on the north side, the present number 1 Aspland Road is one of a short row of houses probably built in the last ten years or so.

Thomas Case was a partner in the firm of Case and Steward, a grain and seed company founded by his father Philip Case in 1860. He married Helen Towler in 1885 and they had six children over the next twenty one years: my father Philip was the youngest, born in 1906. His eldest brother (Thomas Henry Towler Case) was twenty years older than him, and a high flyer: he was head boy at Norwich School, read history and law at Oxford, became a barrister and was legal adviser to the Admiralty at the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic (by some accounts a tricky position to be in!), and a published poet of the “Norfolk school”, usually described as “influenced by Swinburne”. Sadly, THTC died early of liver failure in 1937.

Helen Emma, Helen, and Philip Case on Norfolk Broads, c 1915

Helen Emma, Helen, and Philip Case on Norfolk Broads, c 1915

I knew that Thomas Case’s family spent their holidays on the Norfolk Broads:  (there are photos in Helen Case’s albums as well as my father’s stories and his own love of sailing on the Broads: we also had a number of holidays there), but I hadn’t realised that the Broads came up almost to their home doorstep! Aspland Road leads down to Riverside Road, and the River Wensum is on the other side of the road. I had lunch at a riverside pub next to Foundry Bridge no more than 200 yards along the road, then walked about the same distance along the river towpath up the other way to Pull’s Ferry, a much-photographed beauty spot, and site of the old river crossing before the bridge was built. Many years ago I remember trying out oil painting, and chose a postcard view of Pull’s Ferry to copy. I think my parents were suitably flattering about the result but I don’t remember my father ever commenting that I had chosen to paint a view that must have been so familiar to him. Perhaps the painting was unrecognisable – but either way, I had no idea then that he had grown up in such a beautiful area on the river.

Among the papers I found at Rickmansworth were documents about Thomas Case’s grave, and I had the exact site number for him, at Norwich cemetery, now known as Earlham Road Cemetery, back on the western edge of town. From the internet I also had a rough sketch showing the layout of the entire cemetery. So I was reasonably confident that I’d be able to find the grave. It should have been only a few yards from the main driveway through the oldest part of the cemetery. Helen his wife, and Phyllis, the daughter who died at 20 from appendicitis, were in the same grave, so I was keen to find it.

What I hadn’t thought through was that old, weathered gravestones are hard to read, and many of these were not just weathered, but totally overgrown. I had hoped to find small signs labelling each block (I was looking for lot 10, grave 899, near the chapel), but apparently all the signs were removed some years ago – according to one of the stonemasons at the monumental masons and florists shop just across the road. He suggested I make an appointment with someone from the cemetery management who could lead me to the grave: but time was pressing, so I abandoned my search for his grave, well satisfied that I’d found two places where he had lived. I had to press on to a village connected with 35 people in my family tree, most recently Thomas Case’s father Philip James, my great grandfather.

Since I wrote this, a contact in Norwich has found and photographed not only grandfather Thomas Case’s gravestone but several others in the family.

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